Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ethics in the Public Square

I don't know about you, but it seems there is no end to ethical "questions" when it comes to how many is spent and how those in power can ignore what would send the "average Joe" to prison!

The old news of Merrill Lynch's CEO spending on extravagant furniture (over 30,000 for each piece) was baffling in light of the reason; it wouldn't "match" the style of some such reasoning...

Then to hear of tax evasions of the several Congressmen and presidental staff nominees...why would they ignore such things?

I told my husband tonight that I thought that it would be better not only to have term limits to Congressional positions, but also to ask the constiuents to vote as to whether their Congressman deserves a pay increase. Have they done their job and with the public's interest in mind? This would limit a lot of abuse of power.

But, I wonder if any of the average citizens would be able to rise to the level of political power without much money to campaign. Most are financially well "heeled" and would have an interest in "serving their own interests" in regards to Wall Street, etc...

But, would most of us be aware of what that would mean as far a informing ourselves..and would we care...

Memory and Meaning

Some think that we are only the products of our experiences. While I do believe that experiences influence us and sometimes determine us in certain ways, I do not believe that they define everything about a human.

Take, for instance, my upbringing as a Baptist. I went to church everytime the doors opened and for the most part, found my friends within her doors. But, my husband and I do not "connect" with Baptists, theologically, or otherwise. We have visited many Baptists churches on many different occasions in the many places we have lived. I do not think that those who want to define another's life based on experience alone will find the "truth" about the "human".

I don't know all there is about brain science, but I do know that many factors go into the mix of what makes a person, a person, as well as the individual's certain bent. Christians, in the West, have understood that the bent of man is "sinful". I do not believe that sin is within, so much as without. What do we do with our life and the experiences in it? How do we interpret the things that transpire? These are the very struggles I have had for the past 14 or so years, as I have evaluated my faith in and through my experience. It has impacted how I have understood my faith.

Ethics is about how we treat our neighbor. And ethics is about how we do "business' and life, in general. While I don't believe that there are specificities of lifestyle, as these are personal convictions and evaluations, I do believe that the values that one is committed to are the ones that impact the life's color as a whole. Ethics is the broad-scale approach to doing "life".

I had understood my faith through theological belief, that meant I was to be included, no matter what. But, belief and belonging, did not match what I experienced in the behavior of community. Different belief systems evaluate their in-groups on different basises....I was floundering as to understand things and put my life together when I went back to school and then experienced my brother's suicide. Sometimes experiencing tragedy that is inexplicable and not experiencing the grace of and in community can be damgaing and damning to one's faith.

I do not by any means mean to sound like I am complaining. No, in fact, I am blessed in many ways to have come to a point of evaluating myself, my life, and my faith in ways that I would not have done otherwise. So, I will give thanks for all of the pain. I do not think that "God ordained anything" in my life. But, I do believe that all things are useful. This is a point of not playing a blame game, but a learning game. It is the mind-set to understand that "life happens" and move on, get over it, after it has been sieved through one's consciousness long enough to have and make meaning to and for one's life.

I am fortunate to have a family around me that we can see regularly. I cherish that and try to allow that to "fill" the need for community. I take pleasure in simple things, like my dog's loyalty, or my grandchild's smile. I will continue to try to "make meaning". But the meaning will not be some "transcendent meaning" or value, but personal meaning. As life is about "what one makes it".

Memory Is Fleeing...and Sometimes Fabricated

This morning while talking with a family member, I was amazed at their recollection of events in the past! I basically did not say anything, as what was meaningful for their point was important to affirm (for their sake). And the value to both of us was what had transpired since the remembered (or "dis-remembered") historical events.

After hanging up the phone, I told my husband what was said and he agreed that what was said was a figment of the imagination (embellishment of the facts) and an attempt to make one's "mistakes of the past" pale into oblivion. We all tend to do this unless we are held accoutable and/are self-reflective enough to recognize certain tendencies or weaknesses. And we all tend to do this is we have low self-esteem.

The recollection of events was not interesting to me because of some need to be "right", but a reflective and aware moment that this person's reality was skewed as it concerned what I had remembered...This is often the case and is why in our courts, the accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But, this experience of memory has value in understanding anything about the past. And in ancient texts, which could or could not be remembering history, it has value. Scriptures have been evaluated upon the mythological and the historical. The facts don't matter if one is only interested in "theological" understanding. But, it is important if there is value in ancient texts that impacts our society today....

Christian faith has no foundation, but Christ. And Christ is not even recognized as a historical figure by all scholars. But the history of Christian faith is within the Jewish tradition, not an isolated "Roman cult". Blood does nothing to "cleanse from sin", except if one chooses to believe some mystical revelational message that has no historical value, other than making someone feel better about themselves.

This is the main reason why I think that reason has to be engaged for there to be development of the individual. And it is not in some mystical faith tradition. It is the development of reason which is separate from faith. And yet, reason cannot be separated from faith because we are finite beings, that have limitations of understanding, and contexts.

While our memory is fleeing before our eyes, we all need to remember what is important and of value. These are values of commitment to the ideals of justice, truth, and value, tempered by mercy, because we recognize the fragility of life and memory, itself.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Some Believe....

Some believe that one has to submit to circustances at all costs, otherwise, you will miss the opportunity to "learn" from it. There premise is that God controls all events. And theirs is passivity to anything that transpires, as the Greeks understood "fate".

Others believe that we should promote our views at all costs, even to the point of revolution, because it is our right and duty to inform others of what we think is most important.The premise in this view is an absolute "truth" or "value" that cannot be tolerant of diverse viewpoints.

While I think there is much to be discerned concerning one's personal beliefs., how does one understand life and all of its complexities is a caldrum of many things. There is much that needs to be addressed contextually, but there are broad principles that hold "truths" that cannot be compromised without compromises what defines "who you are" and the values you want to commit and hold to...In this sense there is no "god" teaching outside, although you will learn through any experience, and there is not one "truth", as there are many and various ways of understanding life, God and other...

It becomes a matter of personal choice and commitment, which cannot be determined from the outside.

The Absurdity of Belief

Some believe that God is in control of history and that history is a revelation of God's kingdom on earth. This cannot be true, as it is not provable. It is only belief. For instance, it is absurdity of the worst kind to think that "God uses" the Holocost....this is simply unbelievable, and many have become atheist because of it...Why?

Besides a belief in a God that controls history, there has to be a commitment to "bring in that reality in the real world", which is not an idea that prevades all religious traditions, nor is it an understanding of reality according to some scientific understandings. One has to believe that leaders are wise enought to know what the "Kingdom is" and how to plan for the future in regards to "the Kingdom". But, because this is not representative of all traditions, even Christian ones, then, it is presumption towards our government's commitment to represent all traditions.

This does not mean that Christians should have no voice in regards to policy in the public square, but that their voice should be only one among many voices in our public square. Christians have various understandings which should be respected in our free and open government. This is why our government cannot legislate any form of religious tradition. There is a separation of powers that protects the power from being invested in one area of government. Justice would be undermined if the legislative branch were to legalize a belief system. We believe that all people have the right for equal representation under law, which is what Guatanamo is/was about.

Those who theologize to those who are suffering under dominant rulers, and other leaders, who seek to control events through mishandling the "rule of law", are doing God injustice, as well as man. God is scapegoated by the irresponsible, ignorant, disrespectful, arrogant behavior of those who hold power like this.

Power is to be used to serve another. This is what public service is about, but as we have experienced, even within our democracy, power can also be used for self-serving purposes, if there is no accountability and balance to that power. This is abuse of power and it creates the inhumane treatment of others, in the name of some other name, than what it's real name is, Evil. It disregards and claims innocence.

Passivity is not the place for dealing with evil. Evil must be engaged carefully, as it is deceptive, and controlling. Evil does not care about the humane, or the human. All evil wants is to win the control, the power and the very lives of others.

Americans came face to face with evil on 9/11 and have suffered for it ever since. We haven't had an evil that is this subversive, and yet, very prominent, as it is not openly political and nationalistic, as Hitler's Nazism was. It is a culture of religious zeal and intolerance that idealizes one's understanding of God and the afterlife. It is faith without reason, and is not reasonable. It is not open to be engaged in education, as it's views are "right" and "true". And it's indoctrination starts early in life, and controls all aspects of life for those under its rule. It is a complete allegeiance of life, at the costs of life itself.

Christians beware of over-zealous groups, and ideaologies that promise anything in the name of faith alone!

Tradition in America

In thinking about tradition, which is culture, it it necessary to understand diversity. Our culture is maintained by its laws, which describe a '"free way of life". Congress is pledged that they are not to make a law that legislates a religion. While our freedom is a value that maintains a climate that gives room for diverse views and opinions, the Church also allows this "freedom" as it is only one among many religious traditions within our nation.

Freedom, which is protected by the "rule of law", is what human rights is about, as tradition would limit freedom, because it maintains a climate of tightly defined laws that govern its "tradition". Our government is based upon free and open exchange of information and thus, does not limit a person's choice of lifestyle, while Tradition does.

So, human rights is about the freedom of the individual from oppressive governments, regimes and traditions. Some traditions believe that their rules legislate "right behavior", but breed a narrow understanding of human rights.

Human rights is about life and liberty. Each human life has value, as well as a right to exercise freedom of choice. We are a people who are governed by laws which are protective of these rights. This protects our sense of security and peace. All civilied nations interact with other nations through treaty. These treaties represent the attempt to produce peace between the parties.

In our country, civil liberties are affirmed under our government's desire to protect "all rights". Therefore, those who subvert the "rule of law" are subversive and are considered terrorists. We do not condone terrorism of any kind.

Because of our cultural diversity, we allow the individual to choose which community organizations he commits, whether religious, political, or communal. This is what we believe and this is the mantra of the American "ideal" of freedom and justice for all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Free Governments, Church, and the Individual

Our government is to represent all people, no matter their diverse beliefs, or behaviors. The individual is the epitome of 'god's image". But, in this climate, "anything goes", except what is unlawful. I believe that this is where the Church must decide what is to be believed about behavior, not the legal but the moral. What constitutes the moral? The ideals of a culture, which are applied to a society in understanding right and wrong. The Church becomes a culture, as it defines what behavior to uphold .

In our society, "anything" that is lawful is allowable behavior, whereas, certain Churches define what behavior is appropriate and inappropriate. These are even written in their by-laws. These Churches have understood the development of tradition within the Church. Other Churches do not define behavior but allow anyone to belong, as their understanding is more on doctrine, than behavior. Where do we draw our lines when as we understand our faith? Is the individual more important than the culture of the Church, or is the Church's behavior more important to maintain? These are questions that have brought the Church to a place of not knowing what it's true identity is. Today's Church is defined along many lines of understanding. While this may appeal to consumers, what is to be the standard that was understood and held to in all places at all times, and to all people?

The individual must decide where he desires to identify and commit, if he want to be a part of a 'tradition" or not. It becomes a matter of personal conviction and personal choice. This is a reasoned response, if the individual has arrived at maturity, otherwise there are other mitigating factors that will impinge on the commitment.

Science and Theology and the Human

Some have said that science and theology are separate entities that have different tasks and should not seek to be intergrated. I would disagree.

Although both science and theology have value to man's existence, one is useful for pragmatic reasons, while the other is not, necessarily.

Science is investigative, and is based on "real world" understandings of life, while theology is no less investigative, but is not usually based on the 'real world" but the transcendental world. There is no proof of God, as in his transcendetal existence cannot be observed or evaluated. All we can observe is the world of experience in the physical realm, which is about man and his environment.

Some would understand this endeavor as an important undertaking, as it connects the transcendental to the real, which would bring about a reasoned faith. Gnosticism has bee the bane of culture, as it disconnects faith from reason altogether. Faith alone distorts purpose, and hinders human flourishing, because it separates reality from faith. These faith understandings are not believable by those who value science and the "real world". How can the interface of science and theology "work" to bring about a 'better world"?

Man and his environment intersects many disciplines in psychology and sociology and anthropology and political theory. These are integrations of "sides" of the Quadralateral.

Culture contains the religion, traditions and political realms of understanding a man in his experience/environment. How does one understand all men (universal) within their context (particularity)? All men have reason, but not all men have the same experience(s) even within the same culture. The complexity of understanding man in "God's image" is a huge undertaking. And I'm not sure that man can never be understood completely, in universal terms, as there will always be the particularity of the individual and so many factors go into that mix that it is improbale that there will ever be consensus. But, then, this is what research is about, isn't it?

Therefore, science is mandantory in theological endeavor, as theology is about man, as much as it is about God. There is no absolute universal because each man as an individual cannot be understood from afar.

American Economics and the Value of Relationship

Americans work mostly for the money they make, not for the enjoyment of their vocation. Colleges invest much money in evaluating student's interests and try to meet those "markets" in developing their majors and courses. We consume education for the value it gives our life for economic purposes. This is the American ideal.

But, when my husband grew up in the Netherlands, he was "tracked" in sixth grade, as to whether he was gifted to attend one of the higher level high schools in preparation for university. The philosophy behind the "tracking" method, I think, might add to our sense of reponsible citizenry, but it would limit equal opportunity, as far as individual choices. The underlying philosophy is that the society benefits from preparing each student in the necessary school that develops their gifting best. Therefore, everyone could not go to the university, when he attended. It was assumed that the work force would be the area where these would give back to society.

As his parents were really uneducated, he did not have the "environment" that most Americans believe prepare the child to develop, but this fact did not limit his possibilities. Some of his university friends are working in the Netherlands and so, he investigated the salaries and benefits, as he understands the culture. Dutch standards were definately different from Amercian standards. Not only do they get vacation pay and much more vacation time, to boot, but they also got paid much more in salary. I don't know how the culture affords it, with socialized medicine, and his neices got "social security" (I don't know if that is what they call it) at the age of 18...

Although housing is much more expensive, and certain luxuries that Americans believe are necessary "needs" are not valued in the Netherlands, the Dutch still have their coffee/tea times where they invest in "relationships". But, the culture does not see people as means to ends, as their culture values depth of relationship for relationship purposes alone.

I have a childhood friend that married an Englishman and they lived in England when they first married. She and he see the difference in the American Christian culture, versus what they had in Europe. In America, it is "nice" to be polite, but it is not in depth. The "common greeting" is "how are you?", But, it would not be considered polite to really tell someone how you are. You are supposed to say "fine". or some other "palid" response. Americans do not as a whole connect because of the value of relationship, but because it is expedient, or a work duty, or some other purpose, etc....If these relationships continue then there is hope for a real relationship.

We are at a disadvantage in our culture because we move too often, work too much and value money more than family. And the meaning to our culture has brought about destruction to the family and stress on our health, as well as setting a horrible example for the world.

I have been blessed to see some of Europe from the inside of a European family and that makes a difference in how one assesses the culture and understands certain values...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Geert Wilder's on T.V. Tonight

Geert Wilder was on T.V. tonight talking about his concern for the Dutch culture, because of the prominence of Muslims. This is of concern also for my husband as he was born and raised in the Netherlands. His family still resides there, where his brother-in-law has some of the same concerns. Wilders said he had nothing against the Muslims themselves, but he had tried to expose some of the Koran's message, which should alarm most Westerners. A radical message against our culture.

Now he is being charged with intolerance, in one of the most tolerant nations in the EU. While he is being charged, the Muslims have posters of Wilders with guns pointed at his head, yet, they are never held accountable. Why?

Why is the U.N. allowing Muslim nations to practice their "honor killings", when the U.N. is to
protect human rights? Is culture more important than human life?

I am beginning to think that this is not a war to win by creating a Christian culture, but in standing for human rights, which means the right of the individual in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

American values would be the height of arrogance and subversion of Islam's cultural values, as tradition rules the individual in every detail.

In the last six months, I have gone twice to the Newsmuseum in D.C. where the radio antenae to one of the towers is 'featured" along with actual footage and a minute by minute unfolding of the attack. The four story high wall is filled with newspaper headlines from around the world . We had worldwide sympathy.

What kind of culture can kill in the name of God because a woman is raped or goes out alone, or does not want an arranged marriage? What kind of culture creates suicide bombers, who give their life willingly for God? What kind of culture lies to the Infidels, as these do not deserve respect or dignity? What kind of culture would mutilate the female genitals and sew it shut, so that it can be known if there is inappropriate behavior? And then, in marriage, there is no pleasure, but pain in the marital bed?

America and the Western world need to understand that our culture, which allows tolerance, is hard pressed to deny even those who would seek to undermine our 'way of life". How do we hold to our values, and yet, protect ourselves? I don't know, and I'm concerned, as what is in store for our future.

God's Love to Christ

If one literalizes the text of John, then, God so loved the world that He gave His Son. His Son was created so that he could die, not live more abundantly. Christ came at the demand of the Father's love for others. Christ wasn't in His Father's thoughts, as Christ was just useful as a means to an end, the "salvation of the world". Christ was abandoned and alone, humilated. This Christ wasn't respected or respectable. He was ignored and rejected, even by His Father....

Christ today would be crucified by the Church, too. He would have been useful, but not meaningful. He was a means to an end. And his life was not to be lived as abundantly, but marginalized because He chose to live differently than the religious thought he should. The Church loves to send out missionaries so they can enlarge their numbers on Church roles and plant churches to impress themselves with success.. No one in the Church really cares or loves Christ, they love their own vision and plan for his life. His life was not seen, except for their own "greater good" purpose...and he died and no one cared.

If the Chruch is to use Christ as a moral model, do they "kill" another in the name of and for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom? Is one individual not valued except for what it can do? Love does not demand. Love does not demean, Love does not devalue. Oh, but I forgot, this one life is considered selfish to think so.

Peace in the Middle East

Peace cannot happen when domination happens if we believe in equality under law. Laws are made and defined by human beings. And humans should make laws that are just in representing everyone's interest fairly.

I am glad that there is discussion about the "feelings" of the situation, as it has recently been understood that humans reason more on the emotional spectrum than on an objective. It is again what is the meaning and value given to a certain issue? And that becomes hard to negotiate when the issues have different meanings and values...

Will peace come? We have hoped and we are waiting and watching.

Choices?

Some believe that life and the world "works" according to Newton's laws of physics. If you do this, then this is what will happen. It is a mentality that righteousness deserves blessing and unrighteousness deserves judgment......this was what was theologically incorrect in Job. Job had done no wrong, as he was blameless. What was wrong?

What was wrong was man's arrogance, either in judging another (Job), by theologizing about his "sin", or whether it was Job's lack of understanding that "life happens" and we don't understand how or why it "happens'. But, God is above what happens. The book of Job says nothing about how or why things happen, but that God IS and He is the Creator. And we don't understand all about everything...

Some have made a false "world" for sanctifying believers. They presupposed a certain response, with a resulting "judgement" or punishment, if that response is not forthcoming. This is behavior that is modelled on the first stage of morality. It is responding becasue of fear of punishment, which a child does. An adult is to come to a principled life, where the values that are most important determine responses.

But, if there is an outcome-based mentality, where the goal, result or determining purpose is "set-up", without discussing it fully with all parties, then there might be reprecussions on the "goal" or purpose. That is, if all players are needed to fulfill a certain role or function.

Out-come based mentality is a closed system that does not leave room for any differnce of choice or respect for "life"s diverse contingencies. This is what I have against the Christian "worldview" in evangelicalism. It assumes that their view is absolutely correct and determine or plan accordingly. These beliefs are not "set in stone" although they think they are written in God's "word". These beliefs are interpretations and living one's life based on a interpretive text, which has diverse understandings throughout Church history, is short-sighted and small-minded. It perverts justice, while claiming innocence and pointing to God, as the origninator, without taking proper responsibility.

Choice is about personal values, personal commitments, and personal goals. These cannot be placed within a system, unless the system has allowed free exchange and negotiation about all of these aspects of an individual's life. Choice is not about right and wrong, necessarily, but about value.

What are your ultimate values and where do you find meaning in walking these values out in your life?

Limitations

Yesterday, while interacting with someone on another blog, it was pointed out that we have limitations. While I have never doubted that all of us do have limitations, what do these limitations mean?

The psychologist would say that we have limitations of gifting, while the anthropologist would say that our limitation is context. The lawyer would understand the limitation of law, while the politician doesn't grasp any limitation whatsoever!

Individuals are born with certain gifts in understanding, intellectual capacity, and interests. These giftings are only limited by a lack of development.

The anthropologist would understand that our cultural values and understanding of life vis a vis religion will be different. The individual is limited within his scope of context, but this limitation can be overcome. A enlarged world can happen through education, exposure to other cultures, etc.

The rule of law is an important value in the West. It has made our country great because it is the basis of our governing and government. The Law defines what is 'right and wrong" behavior in relationships, whether it be in business transactions, divorce settlements, or settlement of estates. Most of our laws are based on economic boundaries that define what is considered justice.

But, what happens in countries that do not value law? Terrorists or those whose cultures do not allow equality under law, as their cultural values differ from ours, whether through religious prejuidice, or a "saving face" norm, these people cannot be trusted in the same way as Western cultures. How are we to do business withe these cultures? If one believes that only the "in group" is privy for special rights or priviledge because others are infidels, or whether the culture does not allow the acknowledgment of wrong, because of the "loss of face"....These are challenging in our global climate of economic exchange...

The politician, though, is only interested in getting the job, getting elected, appealing to the masses, and being ambiguous. Ambuguity is an important attribute for a politician for then, people can project what they value the most in a form of rhetoric that is broad enough for their view to "fit". The astute politician is a "man for all people", as he represents many and various views. He knows how to manipulate the press and the people for his own advantage, so that he can maintain his public office. Honesty would be a refreshing change in the public square.

Limitations are what we place upon our own life in a free society, either through our own "smallness", or allowing another his overindulgent appetite for what we have. Limitations then, become a matter of "right relationship", where another needs to recognize what has happened and make amends. Justice is about right relationship and right relationship is about law. And law is what makes for peace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Theodicity, Salvation, and Free Will

I just read on another blog spot that this person was attempting to re-think his theology on two points
1.) there is no free will
2.) salvation collapses into theodicity

I may be misunderstanding him, but is seems to me, that if one works within a closed system, then one has to believe in free choice, otherwise how does anything happen at all.

Leaders whether in government or organizational structures, are responsible for the choices they make, as they set vision, determine purpose, et al...then, the conventional level moral development people are given "the good news", as in the theodicity problem is really a call to "sanctification"! Therefore, they are to practice the disciplines, the Sermon on the Mount and count it all joy, because as God is their eschalogical hope, they can be assured that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed ....

IMAGINE, the VICTIM (those who have limited choices, or are pre-determined by "leadership") are then given the "good news" of the redemption of sin...in the sweet by and by and in the meantime, they are to have Christ-like character!!! while those in leadership rest at ease in their imaginings....I imagine the Book of Hebrews would come in handy about now, too!! Then, tradition could benefit with those so sanctified, as well as enlarge the portals of scientism's knowledge....

Salvation is character, but character does not act arrogantly, immorally, or unethically. We do have problems in ethics concerning the choices set before us, in coming to understand and settle on what constitutes the greater good, or the highest value, or the ultimate end...But, there must not be determinism. No, choice is a matter of individual conscience, the moral order of accountability, and justice.

I do not believe in Calvinism, determinism ala scientism, even God's foreknowledge. No, I believe in a free and open universe, where anything can happen, because man isn't God and doesn't know everything, nor control everything...but I struggle with God's control, knowledge and intervention within history. We all see the facts and interpret them in faith...

Agnostics Are More Believable

Agnostics are more believable than "bible believing Christians", because while they use their reason well (outside the authority of a text and/or tradition), they also understand the limitation to reason. I find this refreshingly appropriate, because it brings humility to the table in regards to things we cannot know, like God, while agnostics do not assume they know he doesn't exist, either!

I am very tired of people trying to theologize evil by laying it at the "foot of the Cross" or some other such nonsense!!! It is the height of arrogance, at least to me, to assert claims of value in suffering. It is Job's comforter's all over again!

Those who want to theologize about suffering are those who place their absolute trust and claims about "God's Sovereignty" and control in history, etc....I do not believe this, as it is so presumptive in regards to other traditions of faith, and to man's reason. People want to minimize what they do, so they scapegoat a God-figure, by creating some "unjust theology" about a mythological figure, or, a shadowy historical one.

I do not believe that we can assume a personal God because it our "hearing" could be nothing other than self-reflection, or projection, which can result in many understandings about oneself, and about life in general. No, I don't believe that God has revealed anything apart from the natural arena of man. Man creates, man directs, man chooses, and makes his own destiny. The suffering theology is one for those who have no choice, or no value to these kinds of Christians. And certainly, while these kinds of Christians claim God's love, they deny him by their theologizing about the suffering of others.

Maybe what Christians should do is "make Christian history real" by bringing in the Kingdom, and taking control of others in the Name of God, because after all, this is what life is to be about...Making disciples, either by their free choice or by force. Church history has revealed that this is not appropriate and has brought about an "us/them" mentality that doesn't do anything to further peace,.

I am weary of Christian people who claim for others, presumptuously, and pre-emptively. This is what suffering is about, because it presumes upon man's developmental nature, which limits these individuals under the "rule" of these unjust Christians!

Honor Our Values; Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

In today's editorial, the writer commends Obama to "pursue truth, and soon", concerning Guantanamo prison.

I value Obama's declaration to hold to the U.S. Army Field Manuel's methods of interrogation. There should never be an abuse of power like we have heard about at Guantanamo prison. Obama wants to make public what can rightly be revealed. This is good news, for it is only when due process, the rule of law, humane interrogation, privacy and governmental openness that we are all protected, otherwise, we are doome to suffer under those whose arrogance undermines our liberties.

The CATO institute held a panel discussion about these abuses a year ago this past December. Not only was there abusive treatment of prisoners, but there was an arrogant disregard to our government's balance of power, which the justice department was outraged over...

We have an orderly process that requires us to consider the other as important as ourselves. Not only is this a religious ideal, and an important ideal to guide our nation, but it is also important in business practices.

Business in the U.S. has driven all of our interests, hindering building trust, and friendship, which has driven foreign policy. While the free market has benefitted our nation, have we lost much more than we have gained?

I am hoping that the change we have seen in our nation's history with the election of an African American will stand for the future of our American values being upheld. Obama has committed to honor our values "not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Responsibility, Respect, and Success

America measures performance, because America values results, goals, and productivity. The question should be, is America's values of production the best value? And according to whom and what? If these values are what is considered right and good, then who is setting the agenda, goal or result that measures the performance? America's value of work has been understood as the "protestant work ethic" and most Americans do not question this value, but assume it's value to our "common good".

People who value hierarchal leadership models, value submission, because then their goals can be attained in the name of training those who follow and perform their "duties". This model uses the other to benefit the organization, themselves, or both. I don't value those who think this way about themselves, as success should be measured by the muturality of the institutions and individual's attainment of their own goals. Of course, Americans can have the "luxury" of choosing their community, or job, because, we for the most part, are free to do so, as our country protects these values.

American "success" has been based on a capitalistic economic system that desires the most for the least, which some would understand as "good stewardship", but can be nothing other than a inverted greed, not just of money but of another's labor, efforts and life. I find that leaders in positions of power many times use their power to benefit their own interests, even when it devalues another's life and choices. Congress does this all the time in salary increases, while legislating or defending their constieunites. These are the "pork barrel" increases of the elite's power. It is their agenda that moves and shakes the nature of our country's history or institution's future.

I don't believe that others should determine futures but allow an open culture for change, choice and negotiation...whenever those in power rule through power by maintaining how and what is expected for their underlings to attain a "voice", without giving a "voice" to the "vision", there has already been an abuse of power because basically, it is not a free choice, but choices pre-determined...

Pre-determining another's future without fair open disclosure is not based on understanding any variable of opinion, value or position toward these goals, which only looks at and judges the specific behavior. No one would or should expect there to be a submission to abusive, or controlling leaders, whether spouses, supervisors, or governments. In our free society, we have the priviledge of leaving, questioning, and preventing further abuses of power.

Can Anyone Show You the Way?

People are unique. People grow, think, learn, and express these differences in many ways. This is why a democratic form of government is the best for human flourishing! Democracy allows the individual to choose what community, which people and what ideals/values they will affirm, and commit to....

There has been a big flurriy in conservative segments of evangelicalism to "mentor" another in "spiritual formation". What does spiritual formation mean? What is the "end result" desired? Is the "end result" a programmed universal? or is it fine-tuned to the needs of the individual? What is useful for spiritual formation? Is the "mentor" to choose the material, or is it left to the individual? If "spiritual formation" is about "making disciples", then it is a form of bringing about conformity to traditon.

Some groups are goal focused, such as Alcoholics Annonymous, Parenting W/out Partners, or Grief Support. These groups help individual to cope, manage and grow in different ways. There is nothing wrong about these groups, but they are not mandated.

"Spiritual formation" groups are useful in those traditions that believe that there is a universally understood 'goal" to be sought in the discipleship process. These groups hold others accountable to spiritual disciplines, like prayer, bible study, self reflection, or other forms of reading. There is nothing wrong with these groups either, but is the individual free to choose which group s/he will commit to based on interests? or is there a hierarchal "eldership" that determines where the individual "has" to grow and how they are to grow, and therefore, the relationship, and group is determined? I believe that determination is anti-humane, if not immoral, because, the individual must be motivated to change. Al-Anon encourages those who live with alcoholics to not try to change the other, but to change themselves. This is good because it supports the abused, to know how to respond and how to accept. But, "spiritual formation", if understood as a "program" would not understand diversity in decision or choice, as spiritual formation would be forming "christ" in the individual, instead of allowing the individual free discovery and expression. It is a form of spiritual dictatorship. And especially if the major source of authority is Scripture.

Honor and Shame as a Modern Cultural Value?

In ancient cultures, as in some "uncultured" societies, honor and shame rule the cultural landscape. These cultures, believe that social control is held by the social mores, which are bound within tradition's values.

In today's modern West, culture has become dissolved from societie's traditions, which have inhibited some social behavior that would bring shame on the individual or family. These values were what held society "together", as they underwrote man's responsibility for and in his environment.

Cultural values are maintained or upheld by the culture's religion. Religion gives the frame of reference for what culture should be about. The conditioning of children in the home, as well as within the Church was internalized as an identification factor for the child. These were maintained in ancient culture by shame or honor. Duty was the watch-word for the child trained under tradition's influence.

But, in the modern world, the child's education exposes him to a larger frame, where these values are "challenged". The young adult, then has to assess whether he will continue to be committed to his tradition's values, or where these traditions have lost their moral vision and need revision individually or socially.

Tradition has all but died in the Western world because of many societal factors. These factors range from technological advances that discourage face to face interaction, to the break-down of the family. Yesterday's social and moral challenge was the issue of slavery in our country, while today's challenge is redefining marriage.

Every time culture is challenged to change or revise its values, there are many social tensions within the tradition-bearing messengers, whether tradition's scholars, or tradition's insitutions.

Social change is not viewed by the majority as "good" or beneficial, as it revises cherished understandings of "truth", which brings a crisis in identity. While social change is challenging to all, it is necessary and needed, so that mankind can be more understanding of neighbor and enlarge his scope to 'self".

Scripture as Open or Closed?

The natural world has been understood in different ways, according to scientists and philosophers. Some consider the world as a closed system, where the world, as it is, whether made, evolved or designed, is not impacted by supernatural realities. Others, choose to believe that the world is open and influenced directly by the supernatural.

The Scriptures are also viewed in this way. As literature, the scholar approaches the text, with an understanding that what is written is written, as it is. It is not influenced by any other etraneous influences, because it is considered an ancient text. Ancient texts are considered within their ancient context, where ancient culture is understood more fully. These scholars, whether historians, seeking for "facts", or literary critics, seeking for "universal truth", as understood with the ancient context, are interested in the text as an observation.

Scholars, who still agree that the text is a literary device of ancient culture to inform its audience of important ancient cultural values, can also believe there is some value in understanding ancient cultural values, as they contain humanitie's values, or truths that are universally applicable to the modern world. These scholars would be considered Christians in some realms, where other realm of the Christian world would not understand these scholars as falling short of being " biblical Chrisitans".

Biblical Christians understand the text as an open or closed text. Some affirm the openness because of what they believe as "inspiration" of the believer in encountering the text, while others, believe that the text is totally revelational in written form. The former are "neo-orthodox" and can understand man's inspiration as "spirit", or psychological response to stimuli. Beleivers who believe that the text is a written revelation, as is, are fundamentalist.

While the text is considered by all Christians as important to or in their faith. Some are minimalistic in their commitment to the text as "truth for today". Others range the gambit from every "dot and tittle" to an overarching message to and overarching value system, etc.

What the text means is important to address because one's understanding of the diversity within the Christian church is necesarry for tolerance of difference, which brings about a unity in the faith. And the Scriptures are clear that we should work for unity of the faith.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sociology as Personal

Today, I read about faith integration and it was so "up my alley". Why? Because it used the sociological to engage the disciplines that make public policy!!! This is what my blog has been about all along, as I have journeyed in my faith...

Sociology was my major when I left the university, before finishing at IWU. When I met with Steve Stahlman, a professor in the social sciences at our university, many years ago, there was no sociology major, only social work. I tried to explain that my heart was theoretical, as I desired at that point to integrate a professor's Western Intellectual Social History with the disciplines. This professor had set "Athen at odds with Jerusalem"....

Sociology was important to me because it touched on the human. And since the human was important to me, my ethics class impacted my decision to change my major to religion and philosophy. Ethical questions are real questions that impact real people, and that matters...a LOT!

But, sociology was also the experience within the social structures, that were to bless and gift life, itself. Sociology, in this sense, is personal. Personal because religion is personal, because religion is how one views "god", while sociology is how one views relationships, and politics is the playing out of relationships in the "real world". And ethics is how we put is all together in our values, that make our lives meaningful....

Politics is known as a dirty word, as usually it is used to make a contrast between "us and them". But, politics does not have to be a dirty word, as politics is the domain of leaders, who impact vision, policy, and impact others in their personal life, as to lifestyle and choices available.

I am glad that we live in a free society that is free from tribalism, inhumane governments, and a limitation of choice. But, that does not mean that I don't want to see change in other governments, or international policy to influence other governments. In fact, our government is the greatest, highest, and best moral order available to man. And I hope that we see the friut of our moral form to be spread, or at least, our moral influence to impact others for good....

So, sociology is personal, as it gives a framework of understanding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, sociology does not mean socialism, but social value, which each human life must have.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tired of the Littleness

Little minds, which think they know everything, are those whose minds are closed to anything other than what they think. These are not only the uneducated, but the educated that are determined to prove their point. And their point is the only point they see. They cannot get over their own view, their own opinion or their own position.

Little hearts are not open to others in expressing their opinion, nor are they open to new ideas. Their hearts are heardened by their heads, because their truth has blinded their eyes to see anything other than their own frame of reference. Little hearts don't seek understanding, or wisdom, but only want to give out advice and lead. They have hearts of stone that cannot be written upon because they have closed minds, which has hindered the oil from keeping their heart from hardening.

It is not in having strong opinions, or in being convinced or having strong convictions, or even in expressing an opinion, even expressing with intensity, but in allowing others to have a differenc of opinion, another way of seeing and doing and being in the world that is important. Otherwise, there only needs to be one person in the world and it is the person whose mind is closed and heart is hardened....

Christ as Symbol and Substance

The end of the law is Christ. What did Paul mean by this? Christ's life had come to full fruition or maturity to come into "sonship". Sons of God are those who "rule and reign" with God. They create and express beauty.

Beauty is the ability within man to become and express. Christ's life was a symbol of representation of God's gifting within, and his life consisted of the substance of expression within history. Christ's life expressed the work of charitable service.

While Christ's life represented a full son's expression, it was only one life. His example is one that is symbol for those who need modelling, but it is one of sustenance to those who have come to maturity of expression.

Life was meant to develop and come to fruition with expression in particular gifting and call. This is what our university's Life Calling and Leadership is about....

So, it is not about salvation, except in from those who would oppress the gift, and it is not about sanctification, except to consecrate one's gifts to the benefit of others. The result is a life lived in fullness and abundance.

It is not about what or where or to whom, but when it it time, the fullness of time....the maturity of development in vision and hope.

Legislation of Beauty

Many religious think that law will bring about the best, and the right, as it defines "right" and "wrong". I have no qualms about law defining right and wrong, but I do think that those who believe in Law should also understand what the purpose of the Law is, to maintain order and structure of a nation, and society at large and to protect the property of another.

Property rights are an important value to protect as it maintains distinction and affirms the value of difference. It also allows freedom of choice in how one deems to use the property, which is a higher moral order than a tribal commonwealth mentality.

While order and structure is important, how is beauty understood as just as important? And, yet, beauty does not have any value other than for itself alone. It has no meaning other than what is given to it by those who view it. It has no meaning other than to "entertain" (?). Is beauty's value diminished because it has no value, as in monetary or meaning making? This is the demise of the Western world and it is the demise of the materialist.

Beauty has value because it points beyond itself to something other. But, beauty's value is in the eyes of the beholder.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to look at the value of the individual as a creation of beauty that should be valued for thier own sake and not for a purpose or value of God...Then, self-expression of the individual would be allowed to flourish and the individual would be free to give of themselves oto the creation of beauty...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Faith and Truth

Some think that truth resides outside of their understanding or interpretation. Their understanding is in propositions that correspond to the real world. Their is an easy faith to judge, as theirs is written in black and white or on tablets of stone.

Some think that truth is not so much what is written outside of oneself, but what one conceptualizes as real through their faith in reason and experience. They formulate their own way of understanding faith and truth and the mix can be in many forms.

Others don't think there is any real truth to have faith in, as their faith is understood as life itself. Faith to these is not defined in written form, or conceptualizations, but in the heart of humanity. All of humans in their experience of life given and gifted by God is a journey of expression, which is the unique manifestation of God's image within. We just don't have the eyes to see. And many have not been developed to self=expression.

So, which faith do you relate to...? A faith that is primarily written in sources and understood in absolute form?
Or, is your faith a struggle to understand and conceptualize how you understand life, experience, meaning, God and humanity. And one's responsibility in it all?
Or, is your faith about life itself? Is faith an artistic expression of your very self in giving back to God what he has gifted within?

One faith can be gauged, judged and taught. Another faith is a journey of learning and struggle, while the last is a life of restful expression and acceptance of life, self, other and God...

Political Meets Moral

Political systems work in the real world where lives are really impacted for good or ill. In the past, much suffering has resulted from ethnocentrism. Ethnic cleansing has a rough history, but is real policy in some segments of political thinking...

Governments are ruled by an elite. Elitism is not meant as a derogatory label, unless the elite have a moral depravity that hinders their vision of inclusion. But, where elite meets power, with no accountablity, there is self-interest, at the costs of others and much damage to all. Our nation does not allow such power, at least in theory, and it has recently illustrated our ideals of inclusion in our president's election.

The Church has understood itself through an ethnocentric understanding. Besides understanding Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, she has used other exclusive terms to bring about a "separatist" mentality, i.e. "the remnant", "the chosen", "the called", "the elect", "the Bride of Christ", "the Chosen Nation", "God's people", etc., etc.

This ethnocentric orientation has wrought on its heels many times, an attitude of priviledge, or superiority. I find that this is nothing less than ego managment, which is nothing more than self-agrandizement.

Obama's presidency means that we ALL are a people, which does not limit one's understanding to "saved and unsaved", but human. Morality means that all of us are chosen. All of us are important, and All of us need the right to be human, which is what human rights and international law is all about.

The Ideal on Earth Will Bring Defeat

I am beginning to think that any attempt to create an "ideal" or "utopia", will end in defeat and much suffering. But, pragmatism is functioning in the real world, with "real world" solutions, which is what philosopher kings do in formulating policy. The battle of ideas within our nation's think-tanks, in the halls of Congress and in the judicial chambers, all must go into the mix of the "stuff' of reality in the real world.

Historically, we have seen much suffering come from Hitler or Mussolinni's facism, or Stalin's communism. These ideological frames of political functioning are based on racism, economics, or government. All of these forms are not our form and should not be seen or understood as necessary policy.

There has been discussion whether a minority rights law should continue to be renewed, as it protects the rights of minoirities in discrimination, as to the job market. Others have thought that the time for unions is over, as our economy changes. All of these laws and policies are understood within the larger frame of what kind of policy will express our government in today's globalization, while furthering our needs for diplomatic relations.

Self interest is not a bad thing, it is only when policy has been decided without any consideration and/or input from those who will be impacted. This is only acting justly and we should value ourselves as a just nation. Even with good intentions, America has been misunderstood, when others have miscontrued our intent, with abuse of power. Although we have not, nor can we act completely free from self-interest, our self-interest has to be revealed, while acknowledging to the other what would benefit them in the treaty or at negotiation stage. This is just good diplomacy as it behaves respectfully toward the other nation.

What do we do with situations that undermine treaty, or does not breed trust when it concerns foreign policy? This is a good question for Obama and his cabinet to consider in his new open government policy.

I will be looking forward to hearing about it!

A Concern for America's Openness

There has been much talk about the closing of Guatanomo Bay. Last night I watched the press question the press secretary about where these people were to go and what they were to do. He really had no specific answers, which I wonder about.

Is it wise to release these people without investigating what to do with them? Does international law not protect us and them in giving them the right to trial? Is there to be a trial? I don't mean to cast a dark cloud over the closure, but I am questioning why there would not be some checks and balances....

Open Government and A New Era for America

There is something stirring within me, that I cannot quite put my finger on, except to say, that it resembles anticipation. Could it be HOPE?

This morning upon hearing that Obama wanted a more open government, by giving the Freedom of Information Act more power, unless there is real reason to with-hold information. This move is most important to the press in getting information and informing the public, which holds the government accountable! I couldn't be happier! This is great news!

While Obama, as well as Hillary, want to work toward more diplomatic ways to peace. This new commitment to transparency can help further that interest, by making information known to the world about our policies and our intentions.

We are a great nation, that has much responsibility towards others, as stewards. We should be about re-rhinking how our country should "work" and how our vision should be cast. I think that we are on a different and hopeful track. Don't you?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Networks, Individuals and Relationships

Relationships make us human, Relationships sometimesdefine our person, but should not be our sole source of "self". Relationships make for opportunity, as relationships are about connection.

The business world calls "connection" networking. But, what if an individual has no network? What if, for no fault of their own, they have fallen through the cracks of their community? Some think this is the time for those "left out" to "reach out and touch". But, what if the message within the person inhibits them from continuing to "reach out"? Messages are sent by how we exclude another and these messages are internalized. That is why it is important that all have a voice, otherwise, we do disservice to another and end up scape-goating them.

The real issue is that the scapegoat is usually the answer to much of the problem, as the scapegoat covers or takes upon himself the sins of the others. But, the scapegoat suffers, while others go "scot free" in their jealousies, petty competiviness, and superior attitudes toward another make like them. This is not justice, or just.

Discrimination is based on a lie that another is not worthy or to be valued. And discrimination is unloving. Obama represents a new hope that all of us will not continue in the petty bigotedness of the past, but represent a new hope for tomorrow...

Social Structures, and Physical Persons

Some believe that the body is the only aspect of being a human. While I would never negate the body and it's resulting chemical make-up as influencing a human, social structures also influence the human being.

The social structures which impact the human most is the family, community and society. These are necessary graces that are to grace our lives. But, sometimes these very structures are unhealthy environments for human flourishing.

While I do not believe that there is one way to parent, as parenting is not a science of a universal child (although child psychology is important), parenting is as much about artistic "seeing and hearing" the other, when it comes to the individual needs. No organizational structuring can epitomize the individual child and her or his need.

One thing that has come to preimenance in my thinking is, that individuality cannot be measured in a test tube, but in the family room. Anthropologists and psychologists know that the individual cannot be reduced to the physical realm without doing disservice to understanding the whole person.

A person who is reduced to a label, or prejuidicial agenda, cannot be seen,or known, much less loved. Love is not blind, but sees clearly the faults and chooses to look beyond the fault to the potential, the value, and the heart of another. I find this is what love and loving is about, helping another, not condemning another. Love is not about conformity, but finding uniqueness and valuing that uniquness.

Any ideology reduces the person to conformity, and deforms the person in the process. Therefore, I believe that a person, himself is made in the image of God, not just the organizational structure, or social structure, whether Church or family. True whole mental, spiritual and physical health only comes by being flexible enough to really hear and see the need of the individual. This is what good counselling, a good physician or a good mentor does. S/he does not seek to implement a program on another, but seeks to hold the hand. I find so many times institutionalized religion, cultural standards, or cherished traditions, inhibit the other individual from becoming, and being in the world as he is. Acceptance is of primary importance, as condemnation, standardization only brings confinement, and stress that inhibits full flourishing and functioning...and the Authentic Self cannot become in that kind of environment.

Money and Power Rule the World, Is That Good?

I just heard a story on NPR this morning about an investor who heard about the plight of some of the war veterans and felt compelled to lend a helping hand. These are veterans, both young and old, who have disabilities, or other problems that put undue stress on their families and prevent them from living a full and flourishing life.

This brought to mind several things that I think is important. One, is that it is a beautiful thing to see others be moved to give of their sustenance to a good cause. This is such a blessing and such an admirable thing...Charity and charitable service....

The second thing that stood out to me was how many more veterans lives were touched because of this man's response to at story. He had come to understand not only the veterans needs, but that the needs were being met in such a disorganized way. He set up a web-site and people have responded. Otherwise, it was left to small communities to meet these needs on a one on one basis. So, his gifts of organization, have served not only his own interests but also the interest of others. This is commendable.

I think that it is a great country where generous people give to others because of the freedom our county allows in the free market as well. This was an encouraging story as to the wealth in this nation, being used for other purposes than just making money for oneself. We are blessed.

Power is instilled in those who hold money and position. It becomes a precarious position when one person holds much money and total power or control. I don't believe that without accountability is this power and money "useful", but can be damning, as it can be tempting mis-use these gifts to their own advantage. Community, Society, and Family are the communities that keep things in order and keep the individual within the bounds of reason, when it comes to choices and decisions.

There is wisdom in many counselors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

There Is Something Wrong

Many are outraged about the new legislation about licensing guns, which many conservatives feel is an intrusion of Big Government into their lives. The same is true for States and their legislation of home-school oversight.

What is the liberal agenda? For the conservative, freedom is formost, as without it we are left at the mercy of a beaureaucratic organization which is neither effiecient or frugal. While freedom is an important value, the liberal considers our responsibility to our neighbor as more important. So, Big Government is to protect those under their "care". While Big Government may make specific cases safer, is it ideologically safe to promote government's intrustion into private life. The values that were taught in the home at the family dinner table and was emphasized in the public square whether through the news media, or the desk of the student under the teacher's tutledge, America was a nation about "family values". The heritage of the family was undermined in the minds of some throught women going to work, or the dissolving of community involvment and a sense of that community.

Freedom cannot be above duty, or responsibility, as we are not only individuals, but a nation-state, which calls for service and duty to country, as well as to our individual families. We are not free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, but we are freer than any other country and this is what we should focus on...Wall Street, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac acted irresponsibly according to conservative standards, as they were either strictly unaccountable in taking from one and giving to another. I don't believe that governments are "fair" or can be "fair" in their re-distribution of wealth.

I am not speaking from a position of wealth from American standards, but according to the world's standards, I am very wealthy. How does one family view themselves as charitable? Or is it that a program will take the place of individual conscience? Moral authority used to reside within our conscience, but now, we seem to have no conscience. Obama's call for responsibility and accountability are noble "calls". Are they to be mandated generally or specifically, if it is mandated, then how is accountability to be gauged. Is there to be another governmental department?

Home-schooling has been resolved through allowing States to mandate how accountable the parent are to be to the State. While some states are home-school states, that allow parents freedom, other states demand the parents to submit for approval their academic program. Homeschool parents, who value freedom at the costs of accountability, do not agree to State interference, while other parent happily submit to the standards of education for their children.

I do believe that lincensing hand-guns is a good thing, but consevatives worry that it undermines a Constituional right. as far as homeschooling, I believe that the State should evaluate what is being taught and how, as it does hold parent accountable, which is not intrusion, It is just common sense that educators know their discipline better than parents. So, I would agree with State licensing..We have a lot to "see" in the future, as to how responsibility and accountability will work out....Are our leaders to be as accountable and responsible as the people. We will have to wait and see....

It Becomes Evident....

It becomes evident to me that liberals are seeking their interests, which is pragmatically oriented, while the conservative is convinced and just wants to indoctrinate...both cease to care about the individual or the 'real human". Both also seek "success" based on their own terms,....more knowledge, more publications, more understanding of whatever discipline,....while the conservative want to pad the numbers of enrollment in the Church, or "up yonder", as success is measured in numbers, not individuals, or real human beings, with real human problems...

I find this morally reprehensible...I have nothing against adding to a discipline's knowledge base through scientific enterprise, itself, but using the human, diminishes the human....

The conservative doesn't even see the human, as all they see is their view of God, or "right"...whether in behavior or belief...this also is reprehensible.

Neither are loving of the individuals they use to serve their own ends, which appalls me away especially from Christian faith. Christian faith should be mostly about ethics, not about specified behavior or belief...and science, while seeking its truth should remain humble in its expedition and means...as the ends of science are not always for man's betterment...this is an evaluation...who evaluated and made the judgment that this was the best way, and means of the end??

OOPS...Tradition and How It Came To BE

In my last post, I said that tradition grew up around the text, which is true if one is upholding the Protestant evangelical frame, as meaning was created primarily by the text's message, whereas, tradition was the early Church Fathers way of creating meaning from ancient texts and myths that became "tradition" of the Church....which is orthodoxy. And the Church Fathers had reasons for developing the Tradition in the way in which they did.

But, Scripture is about the OT, as well as the NT and this is where the rub comes in, in theological reflection and evangelicalism's faith! Calvinism developed a "complete system" of understanding Scripture 's meaning and has become the "Christian evangelical meaning", without critiquing the historical process or context of developing that system. As theological systems answer questions about meaning and value.

Ancient Scripture's Meaning and Modern Man

Christians organize their life around different authorities and different activities. But, whenever one source becomes a pominient one, then we are headed for disaster. This is the case for the Chirstian Protestant evangleical Church, which interprets Scripture as their prime source of authority.

Christian scholars seek to understand the original meaning of the text, and in doing so they must use reason in addressing the questions of context, social history, and cultural history. I think that whenever we assume that the text is undestood in a certain traditional way (as Christian Scripture, for instance), without understanding how modern scholarship has come to understand the text(s) with their new investigative tools, then we are doomed to live within traditional frames, which limit reason's discovery for a new age.

Throughout Church history, the Church has sought to understand the Scriptures, and what Christ's life meant, this was done within the text in polemics and without the text, in apologetics. Tradition was what formulated around the text and became it's meaning. Today's apology cannot disregard scholarship, which is scientific investigation into sources, and meaningful dialogue with a diverse understanding of these issues.

Today's scholarship uses many "tools" in ascertaing what the text meant in ancient historical realms...

Ancient history is a valid area of "discovery", not just within the text alone, otherwise, we create a system of understanding that is not its original meaning nor intent, as ancient Greek values, ancient myths, etc. were incorporated into the Scripture, which was man seeking to make meaning and create value to and for his life...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Perhaps, I am an Christian Atheist (or a Atheist Believer)

Humans are born within different contexts, which create the identification factors within the child. But, as the child matures and is exposed to a bigger frame of reference, the young adult can choose where he commits. Humans love to identify themselves, as we are social animals, and we "create" our identity by what we commit to. The groups that we commit to, are also, reflective of the values we hold most dear, as reason is developed within these social frames. This is why academic freedom is to be valued. While academic freedom is a value to uphold in allowing the free discourse and discovery within the frame of "reason", it cannot be absolute. Why?Because reason itself is limited within their frames of reference, too, as well, as understanding knowledge's humility, that all is not known yet.....

Atheists are anti-theist, that means "without God". Could atheists stand in opposition to "one form of God"? Thus, it would underwrite and support the "human". I think that an atheist believer is just a "anti-theist" that believes that being human is distinct from being an animal. But, what is a "human"? We cannot reduce the Human to an animal without doing disservice to reason. At the same time, we cannot support the difference (of the human from animal) without some understanding of "god".

Some would argue that belief is at issue when one understands "god" (the religious realm). Others would argue behavior, which would underline the political realm, while still others would argue that the belonging is what makes for the social realm. I believe that all of these must be affirmed for one to be totally human, i.e. the spiritual, the political and the social.

As humans are whole beings, we must affirm all of these "parts" if the whole person is to be "whole". How does one understand "god" and by what authority? Where does one choose to commit, and do service?

If we use the Quadralateral, we understand that the atheist could be believers if they just understood that reason's authority is limited within their specified disciplines. And yet, the social and political realm of the Church must understand that the text and tradition is also limited, which leaves the experience of the individual to determine his own destiny within the bounds of conscience, which is the realm of history....

There is no universal "hope" in the eschaton, but that of the individual's conscience within a specific time frame. There is no universal moral model, nor is there a universal understanding as to "god", as these are contextually bound. There is only a universal form of government which allows freedom and justice for all...

After Obama's Speech and It's Impact on Us All

Many have snidely remarked that Obama's inaugeration is like the "coming kingdom". They have sneered at his being the "messiah". But, after watching the inaugeration and thinking about my values, opinions, beliefs, ideals, and "heart", I believe that our nation, indeed, is the greatest nation on earth.

I don't mean to sound elitist, as it is exactly the opposite. We are a people! And yet, we are individuals! "I have a dream", can be all of our dreams....and our hope for a better future!

The real world is "made up" of ideals, which represent the values, which make our country GREAT....Our political system is great because we do not believe in an elite form of government, whether through power politics of totaltaliraian regimes, or familial, or caste systems! We value all individuals, as created with inaleinable rights! I love our country, as we all do, for these values, freedoms and rights.

What Today Means to America and the Church

Today has meaning for every American and many , at least, in the Western World. Meaning is the "stuff" of value(s) and it is represented in symbols, which enlarge one's imagination because of their meaning.

America's symbols of Flag, Monuments, and Buildings are the "stuff" of Washington, D.C., where these are promeniently displayed. Many have used the symbol of the "Flag" to protest policy in its burning, others have used it to represent comradie to its meaning, in parades, or the creation of monuments, such as the Three Soldiers Raising the Flag, after WWII. Our country allows the freedom of protest, as it values opinions outside the frey of convention. And because policy is made by those who have listened to a particular position, some think that this is why lobbyists are really the strongest force in our country's legislation. And many believe that lobbyists are the "doom" of our county's freedoms, as it empowers the powerful, while limiting the voice of those outside the power structures of corporation, and special interests. Many fear that our very freedoms are at stake because organized crime could have a hand in these lobbying.

While protest is allowed, because we value all voices, even when it seemingly undermines the consensus, it is only because we value every groups right of expression. The most vivid memory I have of this protest was of the Vietnam War. It was a turbulant time and while many protested, much was done that undermined our values of "law and order". Freedom to protest or assembly is valued, but not in a disordered or violent way. Ours are the values of diverse opeinions, freedom of expression, and "law and order", because we value reason, and rationality in our discourse.

Christians also value representation in their government, and "law and order". And they also value (at least some forms) symbolization of "faith" in Cross, eucharist, baptism, etc. But, many Christians do not value the freedom to protest, or disagree with "outside" approved sources, in evaluating their understanding of faith. There is not "freethought" allowed, as it is feared that freethought will undermine religion's tradition altogether. This does not have to be so. History has proven that many have enlarged the vision, and hope through embracing the "ideas" that were outside the approved "circle" of reference.

Today's evangelicals, for the most part, adhere to Scripture as their only authority. And, yet, do not really, seek to understand their faith within a larger context of Church history, and the natural and social sciences. It is important in faith's rationale and appeal to the educated, as well, as understanding faith that is grounded in the 'real world", so that there is no appeal to a sweet by and by, which dismisses and diminishes the real suffering in the world.

My hope for America, as well as the Church, is that both would enlarge their vision, by giving room to those outside the power structures to have a voice and make a difference in those very power structures. It is only in balancing power that power is accountable and responsible to govern all. Otherwise, power, tyranny, and special interest control. And none of us would want that!

I'd Rather Be...

I'd rather be an American today, than anything on earth. America's "ideals" are going to be demonstrated before the world, in Obama's inaugeration.

His inaugeration stands for all the "ideals" I value most, equality, opportunity, hope, and freedom. Mine is not the only heart that is moved by these "ideals". These ideals are what humans are about because humans are made to be free, to experience justice, and to have the hope of opportunity and the freedom of equality....No wonder someone on NPR said the other day that America represents a higher moral order than any other nation!

I'd rather be an American today than be a part of any other country or religion, because America does not discriminate based upon the specificities of one's race or religion. That is what I want to be and be like, because only leaders who represent these values are ones that should be followed!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Choice, Determinism, and Terrorism As Understanding Parenting

Choice is a way of life for Americans. We, for the most part, have choices, within our sphere of life. Christians, on the other hand, for the most part, believe that "God has a plan for your life", or "God has an ultimate plan". While one believes in definitive choices to be within "god's plan", as it is based on a "personal relationship", the other has a broader understanding of "god's plans", which is compatable with a liberal or scientific view.

Determinism is the belief that God or life determines the individual and determinists would play into the later view of "god's ultimate plan". I do not believe this is so. One bases their belief on the transcendent, while the other bases their understanding of a "blank slate". One believes that the "inspired text" determines how one is to raise the child, and the other, believes that the parenting determines the child.

While I do believe that how parents bring up their children does affect them, it does not, nor should not determine them. Otherwise, there would be no one that attained the American Dream, or became a "hero". The destiny of one's life is within their own hands, and our government protects those freedoms, in opportunity, equality, and from discrimination. We have been given opportunity in this country. Therefore, I do not believe in determinism.

Nor do I believe that the child is born a 'blank slate". Children have innate giftings, personalities, and as they grow, develop their own opinions and values, Parents should never control or force their child to conform, unless it is dangerous to their physcial or emotional well-being. The parent should encourage, as well, as prod, and challenge the thinking of the maturing young adult. And the parent should always give the message that their door is open, as the young adult's adovacate.

While there are those behaviorists who would adhere to a strict "input-output" mode, I think they have misguided understandings of the complexity of the human, much less the complexity of the real personal history, itself.

The other term I used in my title was terrorism. What is terrorism? It is actions which cause terror, stress, anxiety. Why? Because it disrupts a "way of life", in a unlawful way. And it relates to the parenting model.

Terrorists are surprise attackers and they connive, manipulate, and infilterate our forms of security. They don't see any need for addressing concerns in a rational, or reasonable way. And today's terrorists are mixed with religious zeal, where under compulsion one must obey the "cause of god". Obedience is the proirity for these people, as it is for any cult. There is no understanding of "life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness". Truth is ultimate, not contextual. Truth is understood in idealized ways and it devalues and destroys the "human". The "human' and all of life is viewed in narrow, and very specified ways that inhibit diversity.

I find that Christians sometimes can be just as misguided. Christians have understood the "kingdom" in many ways. Some have understood it to be without, and some have understood the kingdom as within. Those whose understanding is in historical time have understood the kingdom as "now", others have understood the kingdom as "to come", and some have understood the kingdom as "here and yet, not here". How do we address these issues when it comes to reality? The kingdom is in the heart of the child, as well as in the theological realm.

Certainly, one would not suppose that these understandings could be brought into reality within historical time, without understanding man's limitation in understanding life, history, revelation, and god, himself. Whenever simple solutions are applied to complex issues, one is headed for disaster. Terrorists have a divided understanding and mentality when it comes to "god's kingdom". It is fundamentalistic and it limits freedom "in the name of god". This is no less what some believe is "total depravity", as we are born in sin. What does "total" mean? Does it mean that there is no trace of "god's image in man" left? Therefore, the child must be conformed into that image?And what does that image look like?

We should never limit another's freedom, unless it hurts or hinders another in their freedom. This is the basis of a liberal society. The same is true for parenting, as we choose to home-school, or send our children to public or private schools..And it is also true of the child's freedom of "sefl". This is not to say that the child should not obey or act respectfully, but the child should be respected as a person. There should be a wideness and diversity in our country's understanding of "how a parent is to function".

While child-raising has been understood as a high goal for parents, child-rearing is not a "road-map", but a challenge to listen, learn and love. This is no easy task, as there really is not specific guidelines, unless one wants to adhere to a fundamentalist's understanding of child-rearing. The best parents do not always have children that "turn out" like them. But, this is a good thing, as it illustrates the diversity in the innate nature of individuals. As I have said before, I raised my children early on, in an authoritarian way, as I thought that children's utmost or primary function was to learn to obey. Otherwise, I was told, that they couldn't obey god. This limited my ability to hear and see my children at times, because of my fear that they would be "led astray". And my children did not learn to risk the chance of "going outside the box", for fear of disobeying the conforming standards of "tradition". This was as much about me, as them. I have learned that parenting is an art, not a science. And artists are not terrorists as they bring beauty and allow choice into the world. Terrorists destroy beauty and deny choice, as the only beauty is the "transcendent". I hope that all parents will learn the art of parenting and grow themselves in the process.

Mispreceptions Lead to Misconceptions

Last night, I was thinking about how our misconceptions (generalities) lead to mispreceptions (specificities). But, this morning, as I was pondering over some reading, I also realized that our specific interactions with other, our preceptions, can lead to misconceptions, as well. This happens whenever, we try to enlarge our specific understanding about life or humankind, in general. This is where observation fails, I think.

Take, for instance, yesterday's mispreception of my son's intent in wanting to help me across the ice, my experience had trained, or taught me that whenever he approaches me like this, he has certain tendencies. Past behavior is projected to be future behavior.

A certain movie, that was popular last year, would be a good example. In that movie, a pre-teen views what she thinks is a "sexually" charged scene between two individuals she knows. They movie goes on to enlarge what is really happening, but the girl is still precieving the information through "prejuidicial eyes", which leads to further "evidence" for "truth". The initial mispreception leads to a full-blown misconception, as she only "sees" what she thinks she will see. Thus, the story has a tragic end, as her "revelations" of her observations are miscontrued and influence the opinion of others toward this couple.

I find that this happens often to those who have "vivid imaginations", a creative tendency of story-telling. But, the scientists know better than to assume anything about mere observation. There must be experiment upon experiment with control parameters, that can guide the judgements before "truth" can be verified. This is good science.

So, while our generalizations about experience can lead to specific fears or anxieties about the present or future, our observations of the present can also be miscontrued.

How do we protect ourselves from these crimes of "mind"? I think the best way is to journal, accountability partnes, and a real effort to become aware in self reflective moments. These moment of writing, sharing and meditating can inhibit us from "sins of ignorance" of ourselves and others.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Misconceptions Based on Mispreceptions

Today we dedicated our grandson, Drayton, in Church. As a celebration, my husband, I and family went to a local resturant.

After having lunch, we all departed to meet back up at our house. I entered the parking lot, which was filled with ice. My oldest son approached me with his hand outstretched. I started to back away, as I identified this gesture as one of mischief. He continued to approach me rapidly and when I grimaced, he looked at me with surprise, as he was only trying to help me across the parking lot. I, on the other hand, had thought that he had a "snowball in tow" to throw at me...When we got in the car, he questioned my response, and I told him that he and his brother always found seaweed at the beach to "scare" Mom"...so, I had projected that image onto his helpfulness. We laughed in the car, reminiscing about our times at the beach and their mischevious ways...I'm glad I misprecieved his intent, as it led to a delightful memory of "family"...

This so often happens in relationships, as we precieve what we have experienced, so often and project it onto our present experience. We must take care to take care of our past, so that our past does not continue to affect our present and influence our future.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grandchildren Are Truly A Blessing

My grandchildren were with me for the past two and a half days. I'm really not partial as they ARE the cutest grandchildren in the world (and of course I know that, because it is MY opinion. And my opinion is always right :)).

Take, for instance, what my grand-daughter said to me today as I was finishing up putting together her "kitchen", which her uncles had given her for Christmas....She kept saying "Thank you, Oma", looking at me with delight. I was delighted to put it together for her, although it did give me quite a challenge at one point, where I had to take some of it apart and re-do it...(I'm almost blind without glasses:))...I find that her delight only heightened my delight in what I was doing....I am not a kid person, overall, as I am too serious, I think, but I do enjoy watching them grow into each new stage.

My husband and I have wondered how we did it, with three under the age of 4 and without any support systems, other than our church. But, our church was only filled with other young families, so we enjoyed each other's company and did all kinds of things together as a group. Our kids kinda grew up together. But, as we are older, as well as used to not having children around, having two at one time after all the years of getting used to "each other", makes it a challenge for us to put ourselves "in gear" again. I think our daughter wonders how we raised three, as now she knows what parenting takes! And she appreciates us a lot more.

We took them back to their parents tonight and had dinner with our daughter. It was hard not to think about how much we miss the times of parenting, and yet, this time also has some benefits...As we were driving home, we realized how much "grandchildren are a blessing"!

The Hope for America's Giving and Sacrifice

There has been much said about giving to the poor, and all of us sacrificing, as the economy is in dire straits. I have nothing against giving to the poor, but I do have much that I am in opposition to when it comes to others deciding where I or another should sacrifice. Obama' s call for all of us to sacrifice for the nation, is no less what other Presidents have called for when our nation has needed to defend itself in the time of war, or other times of economic challenges. This I have no problem with, but I do have a problem with plans that are made for the "greater good" which designates someone as the scapegoat, no matter what the cause, as I believe the principle is wrong. No one should be used for any purpose without their full knowledge and full consent. It is unethical, not to mention, unfair.

When we speak today of fairness, many have the idea of equal distribution, which I think is not a healthy or proper way of viewing life. Why? Because we all cannot hold the same office, or have the same things, or be the same person as someone else. But, it is equal opportunity that is an important value to be upheld, as all of us need a "helping hand" at times. It is when there is an attempt to determine what another's position, mission, purpose, focus, values, lifestyle, etc. should be that becomes problematic and dangerous in our free society! All of us are valued in America, at least these are our country's principles, and "ideals". And as a result, we should be and are, for the most part, gracious people to others, in spreading democracy in whatever way we can.

I think that although we have many challenges ahead of us, as a nation, I believe that our country's foundations of freedom are too ingrained for our nation to collapse. Others would disagree with me, as they fear that our values have left the "Moral Majority" and its cause(s). No, I believe that even the recent activism of atheists are because of public concern. ( I just got a message from CFI about perplexed parents desiring to train their children in a pluralistic society. I find this is a noble cause, as it brings reason to the table when discussing religion. And reason is not religion's strength!).

My hope for America and her future, is the same as any American's, "freedom and justice for all, with a continued and renewed hope for our future."....and I think Kennedy's call to all of us"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.".... This is a worthy and noble cause that all of us, as Americans, should value....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Covenant and Community

Some in the past have understood covenant as a theological category that changes the way Scripture is views or sectioned. Covenant was an ancient term meaning a blood contract. There have been discussions in the scholorly realm about whether the covenant was undertaken by God alone or if man had any choice in the matter. Covenant theologians do not believe that man is capable of responding apart from Divine initiative. There are variations to how much and when God undertakes these intiatives in the "secret councils" of His Will and Purposes!

Others believe that there is an element in which man can or may respond. Wesleyans and the Methodist''s camps believe in previenient grace where God goes before, preparing the Way.

The Jews understood themselves as God's chosen people therefore, they segmented themselves off from others in their worship services. There was a way to become a part of the covenant and it was a ritual, in which, a man could be initiated into covenant. Other men and the women were left in the outer court (of course, the men and women were separated)...

I find this whole understanding of life very discombobulated. And the questions are many, but they are not new. I am beginning to find it ludacrous to believe, as religion does things in the name of God that is not understandable. Why would a rational person disregard another because of certain religious rituals? Why would they think he were a "dog"? I don't think religion breeds an environment where reason is liked or lived by...it is emotion, feeling, and experience.

What is Just and Justice in This Situation?

Perhaps, justice is law and order when it comes to right behavior, otherwise, there is useful ends to attain purposes that are dangerous for others.

Iran-backed Hamas Fires at Israeli Troops from Civilian-Filled UNRWA CompoundAttack Comes During Israeli Ceasefire to Deliver Humanitarian Aid into Gaza
Experts Available to be interviewed on Israel/GazaTIP's New Bipartisan Poll on Israel/GazaTIP Begins TV Ad Campaign As Hamas Fires Iranian-made RocketsIran-backed Hamas in Gaza used the cover of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound to fire on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Thursday (Jan. 15), prompting Israeli troops to fire back. [1] Hamas’s attack came during the daily humanitarian aid ceasefire instituted by Israel to ensure that Palestinian civilians receive food, medicine and other necessities. [2]
The UNRWA compound is the agency’s headquarters for Palestinian refugees and also contains offices and a school. [3] At the time of the attack, the compound was serving as a shelter for hundreds of Palestinians. Hamas used anti-tank weapons and machine guns against the IDF. [4] Three UN staff members were injured when Israeli troops returned fire. [5] UNRWA has a long history of allowing its ambulances, schools and other facilities to be used by terrorist groups. Click here for numerous examplesAfter the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “This is a sad incident, and I apologize for it, but our forces were attacked from there and the response was harsh. We did not wish for such an incident to happen, and I don't know if you are aware of this, but Hamas attacked from within the UNRWA building during our humanitarian pause in Gaza.” [6] Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Ban and International Committee of the Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger, “Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields, shooting at Israeli soldiers from positions close to UN facilities. IDF soldiers respond, and will continue to respond, to any attempt to harm them - this is basic self-defense. The IDF will continue to operate while making a supreme effort to avoid harming uninvolved civilians and to extend assistance to the UN organizations involved in humanitarian activity.” [7] The Hamas attack, and Barak’s comments to the UN secretary-general, came just minutes before the UN chief held a joint press conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. During the press conference, Ban insisted on an immediate ceasefire. Livni said Hamas violated the six-month ceasefire that began June 19 on a daily basis and continuously smuggled in weaponry, using the period of calm to rearm. “Hamas cannot become legitimate until it accepts the terms of the international community,” she said. [8] Israeli officials also have said a ceasefire would be contingent on Hamas ending its constant rocket, mortar and missile attacks on Israeli civilians. Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 9,400 rockets and mortars at Israel since 2003 [9] and 6,500 since Israel withdrew from Gaza more than three years ago and turned the area to the Palestinian Authority. [10] Yesterday (Jan. 15), Hamas fired a mortar shell into Israel which contained white phosphorous. The shell landed in a field near the town of Sderot. [11] The security chief of the Eshkol Regional Council, Nikki Levy, said, “The potential danger of using such a rocket is enormous. It is far more dangerous than other Qassam rockets and mortar shells. This is an escalation in the type of explosives the Palestinians use on civilians.” [12] The deliberate use of white phosphorous against civilians is prohibited by international law. Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups direct their rocket and mortar fire at Israeli population centers which is itself a violation of international law. [13] Palestinian terrorists fired approximately 23 rockets at Israel today (Jan. 15), one of which fell in the city of Beersheba, injuring seven people, including a young boy. The cities of G’dera, Ofakim and Sderot were also hit by the rocket fire. [14] Since the beginning of Israel’s defensive operation in Gaza Dec. 27, terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 650 rockets and mortars at Israel. The rocket fire has, however, significantly declined since the start of the operation. On Dec. 27, 2008, 94 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza and yesterday (Jan. 14), the number of rockets and mortars fired was 19. [15] Misuse of UN Facilities by Terrorist GroupsIn recent years UNRWA has come under increased scrutiny for its involvement with Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza and the West Bank, especially by Hamas. U.S. and Israeli officials and diplomats have charged, and UN officials have admitted, that UNRWA has implicitly assisted terrorists in the misuse of UN infrastructure, including ambulances, schools and other facilities. UNRWA's failure to report contact with Palestinian terrorist groups, or to prevent them, violate the UN's own conventions. Security Council resolutions oblige UNRWA representatives to take "appropriate steps to help create a secure environment" in all "situations where refugees [are]...vulnerable to infiltration by armed elements."Said Lanny J. Davis, spokesperson for The Israel Project, "We Americans see UNRWA as becoming more and more a propaganda organization rather than one that states the facts and remains faithful to its humanitarian mission. For example, UNWRA consistently omits telling the world that Iran-backed Hamas terrorists shoot rocket launches and live fire from in and around the vicinity of UNRWA schools and facilities. They also consistently omit telling the world that it is Hamas that launches rockets intentionally trying to kill innocent civilians, whereas Israel is forced to defend itself and sometimes inadvertently causes injury or worse to civilians. The fact that UNRWA can't make that immense moral distinction undermines its credibility as an international organization.”Specific examples of UNRWA’s misuse include:
• On Jan. 6, 2009, as part of defensive operations in the Gaza Strip, IDF forces came under mortar attack from within the UNRWA-run al-Fakhora school in Jabalya. In response to the incoming enemy fire, the IDF returned mortar fire to the source. The IDF return fire landed outside of the school but reports indicate that dozens of Palestinians were killed. IDF spokesmen have said that among those killed were Imad Abu Iskar and Hassan Abu Iskar, two senior Hamas rocket operatives. The presence of Hamas fighters outside the school has been confirmed by first-hand accounts by residents of the area in reports in the Associated Press and The New York Times. Israeli defense officials told the Associated Press that booby-trapped bombs in the school had triggered secondary explosions that killed additional Palestinian civilians there. [16] • On Oct. 29, 2007, terrorists in Beit Hanoun, Gaza used an UNWRA school to launch mortars into Israel. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon deplored the attack and asked UNRWA to conduct a full investigation. [17] • In May 2008 Reuters reported that Awad al-Qiq, an Islamic Jihad rocket engineer, had been moonlighting as a science teacher and deputy headmaster at the Rafah Prep Boys School, run by UNRWA. Al-Qiq was killed while supervising a factory assembling rockets and other weapons for use against Israel, located just a short distance from the school. [18] • Nahed Rashid Ahmed Attallah, UNRWA's Director of Food Supplies for Gaza, admitted to using his UN vehicle on multiple occasions during the summer of 2002 to transport arms, explosives, and activists from the Popular Resistance Committee to carry out terrorist attacks. Attallah also confessed to contacting members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Syria "in order to obtain money for transferring arms to the Gaza Strip as assistance for the PRC." [19] √Ęt¢ Armed Palestinians have been filmed using UNRWA ambulances to transportterrorists and, possibly, remains of fallen Israeli soldiers in Gaza. [20] • Of the 17 UNRWA employees Israel has arrested and indicted since 2001 for aiding terrorists, seven have been convicted in military courts. [21] • UNWRA's former Commissioner-General Peter Hansen admitted that the agency has employed members of Hamas and other terrorist factions but that he was not aware of any who were active members. According to Hansen: "Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another." [22] • On April 25, 2007 the UNRWA representative in New York, Andrew Whitley, revealed to congressional staff that UNRWA provided cash assistance to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. [23] • According to a November 2003 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report: "During the first 6 months of 2003, assailants occupied or attacked UNRWA facilities on nine occasions." [24] • Alaa Muhammad Ali Hassan, a Tanzim member affiliated with Fatah, confessed during interrogation that he had carried out a sniper shooting from a school run by UNRWA in the al-Ayn refugee camp near Nablus. He also told his interrogators that bombs intended for terrorist attacks were being manufactured inside the UNRWA school's facilities. [25] • In 1982, President Reagan accused UNRWA of allowing its Lebanese camps to become armed bastions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Forced to investigate when Reagan threatened to withhold U.S. funding for the organization, UNRWA admitted that several camps indeed had been militarized. While the Security Council hasn't enforced 1208 in the Palestinian territories, it has applied pressure on militant Palestinian refugees elsewhere.[26]
Footnotes:[1] Ravid, Barak, “Olmert to Ban: Gunmen fired at IDF troops from UN Gaza compound,” Haaretz, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1055761.html [2] Sofer, Roni, “Olmert apologizes to UN chief for UNRWA compound strike,” YnetNews, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3656903,00.html[3] Waked, Ali and Levy, Yael, “Gaza:IDF shells UN compound, hospital also hit,” YnetNews, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3656716,00.html [4] Ravid, Barak, “Olmert to Ban: Gunmen fired at IDF troops from UN Gaza compound,” Haaretz, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1055761.html [5] “Gaza pounded amid push for truce,” BBC News, Jan. 15, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7829912.stm[6] Ravid, Barak, “Olmert to Ban: Gunmen fired at IDF troops from UN Gaza compound,” Haaretz, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1055761.html [7] Statement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and ICRC President Jackob Kellenberger, Israel Ministry of Defense, Jan. 15, 2009[8] Kirsh, Elana, “Ban: Death toll in Gaza 'unbearable',” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231950861136&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull [9] IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Dec. 19, 2008; “Iran-backed Terrorists in Gaza Kill 3, Wound Others in Continuing Rocket Attacks on Israel,” The Israel Project press release, Dec. 29, 2008, http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=3587015&content_id={4F0CF025-98BF-4875-A59B-B1F5E4B079F7}¬oc=1; Barzak, Ibrahim and Friedman, Matti, “Israel rejects truce call, pursues bombing Gaza,” Associated Press, Dec. 31, 2008, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ioi_0jtO9RjMwPNRoXNCndRPRq3gD95DQIEO0 [10] Ibid.[11] “Israel: Hamas fires phosphorus shell,” The International Herald Tribune, Jan. 14, 2009, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/14/news/ML-Israel-Phosphorus-Shell.php [12] Curiel, Ilana, “Phosphorus mortar shell detected in Negev,” YnetNews, Jan. 14, 2009, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3656311,00.html[13] Frenkel, Sheera, “Spent shells prove Israeli use of white phosphorus, Gaza doctors say,” The Times, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5519433.ece; “Letter to Hamas to Stop Rocket Attacks,” Human Rights Watch, Nov. 20, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/20/letter-hamas-stop-rocket-attacks [14] “Several wounded as Grad rockets hit Beersheba,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2009, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231950853502&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull [15] “Operation Cast Lead – Update No. 14,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Jan. 14, 2009, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e040.htm [16] Kershner, Isabel and Taghreed El-Khodary. "Israeli Shells Kill 40 at Gaza U.N. School," The New York Times, Jan. 7, 2009; Barzak, Ibrahaim and Matti Friedman, "Israel conditionally welcomes cease-fire proposal," The Associated Press, Jan. 7, 2009; Katz,Yaakov; "Witnesses: Hamasfired from school," The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2009[17] “Ban Ki-moon condemns rocket attack from Gaza school run by UN agency,” UN News Centre, Nov. 8, 2007, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24593&Cr=palestin&Cr1 [18] Entous, Adam. "Gaza headmaster was Islamic Jihad ‘rocket-maker,’” Reuters, May 5, 2008[19] Levitt, Matthew, "Terror on the U.N. Payroll?" PeaceWatch #475, TheWashington Institute for Near East Policy. Oct. 14, 2004[20] Avni, Benny, “Armed Palestinian Fighters Seen in U.N. Ambulance,” The New York Sun, May 28, 2004[21] Myre, Greg, "Israel Feuds With Agency Set Up to Aid Palestinians," The New York Times, Oct. 18, 2004[22] Ibid.[23] Dear colleague letter from Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (IL-10) to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Dec. 11, 2007[24] GAO-04-276R, “Department of State (State) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Actions to Implement Section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961,” U.S. Government Accountability Office, Nov. 17, 2003, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04276r.pdf [25] Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for SpecialStudies, February 2002[26] Jordan, Michael J., "Unmasking UNRWA," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 15, 2006
The Israel Project is an international non-profit, nonpartisan organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace. The Israel Project provides journalists, leaders and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel. The Israel Project is not related to any government or government agency and does not rate or endorse candidates.

Israel deserves to be respected...Hamas does not need to use other vehicles for their other purposes...hiding behing the UN's humanitarian aid, but then, again, the U.N. has granted Islam "priviledged position" in regards to Universal Human Rights Declaration!!! This is how it is in the world. Justice does not rule, for the most part...